Balancing the Grind with Sophie Ritchie, Head of Portfolio Management at KPMG High Growth Ventures

Sophie Ritchie is the Head of Portfolio Management at KPMG High Growth Ventures, which works with founders and their companies (from pre-seed to IPO).

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Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?

I’m currently working for the KPMG High Growth Ventures team; I head up the portfolio management capability for our division, which means I help drive the advisory work for the firm’s rapidly scaling tech companies. I am particularly focused on, and interested in, our clients that create social & environmental progress as well as commercial outcomes (so namely, our Climate Tech, Med Tech, and Impact Tech clients). 

Previous to working at KPMG, I was leading the impact / ESG-associated arm of the University of Technology Sydney’s deep tech consulting firm, UTS Rapido. And previous to that, a blend of impact investing, government policy, and university research roles. It likely will not come as a surprise, but I have always been very motivated by, and focused on, impact!

My career started at the UN Headquarters in New York, where I was working on the negotiation process for the Sustainable Development Goals. I’ve sought to maintain a purposeful element to my work ever since, and believe this can be found in the commercial sector as well as in public service.

We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?

Currently, it involves getting into the KPMG office in Barangaroo reasonably early (hopefully after having done some exercise!), and having a daily huddle with my immediate team in the High Growth Ventures unit – we discuss priorities for the day, challenges, and speak of some of the most exciting clients we are supporting currently, and interesting trends we’re seeing in market.

From that point onward, my days are often back-to-back with client meetings, meeting with the Founders of our Ventures Clients, often accompanied by other KPMG experts. Our team supports across a range of different areas – R&D, strategic finance, international expansion, environmental, social & governance support, broader advisory, etc.

This has me involved in some really fascinating conversations with the Founders of tremendously exciting businesses. I’m always kept on my toes! When I head home in the evenings, I’ll tend to catch up on some “deep thinking” work, and plan for the following day.

Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?

Work life balance for me is not strictly about working fewer hours, or necessarily in a remote fashion. I don’t mind working slightly longer hours and I do love being in the office and meeting with my clients face-to-face. Work-life balance for me relates to the extent to which my professional life brings energy and inspiration into my personal life – and vice versa.

If I come home from work drained and exhausted, I generally know my equilibrium has been thrown out, and I need to look at establishing more balance, or taking more time for myself. I do think the increased flexibility the professional world now offers is a wonderful thing. The ability to work a day or two from home (which somehow adds 2 hours of spare time to the day!) allows me to focus on certain tasks, and have more time in the mornings and evenings for life outside of work.

Generally I try to maintain work-life balance through being strict about making time for my physical health (exercise), mental health (daily meditation practice where possible), and emotional wellbeing (through maintaining positive and frequent connection with friends and family). If either one of these three balancing factors slips, so does my emotional balance, somewhat.

“Making the time” for such activities comes down to habits (forming strong habits around exercise, and maintaining physical health), and boundaries (knowing when to head home, or shut down the laptop after a long day at work). Equally, and it might seem contradictory – but self-care can actually look like having one too many wines at a dinner party if the mood takes me or I’m having fun with it, or having a quiet night in with take-away and a good show, or book.

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Change is constant, and it’s essential for growth. Have you made any lifestyle changes in the past year to improve your work-life balance?

For the past two years up until February of this year, I was doing my MBA alongside full-time work. Finishing the program has definitely been the most dramatic lifestyle change that has brought more balance to my life!

In truth, I still probably have a way to go in finding more work-life balance; Consulting Firms offer exciting and rewarding, but also quite demanding, professional environments. This year, I am trying to focus on doing more diverse activities outside of work and on weekends. It’s also great to be able to travel overseas again, post-covid!

We’re always on the lookout for new resources! Can you recommend any books, podcasts, or newsletters that have helped you in your journey towards balance?

  • Podcast: Diary of a CEO: for in-depth interviews of leading entrepreneurs, philosophers, creatives on their personal & professional journeys.  
  • Podcast: On Purpose, with Jay Shetty: a podcast with really interesting / insightful conversations with experts and thought leaders (all around modern day wisdom relating to finding purpose in life)
  • Books: 21 Lessons for the 21st Century and Sapiens: two Yuval Noah Harari books that have helped me gain a lot of perspective on life.
  • Apps: very very big fan of the leading meditation apps. Probably one of the best investments (ROI-wise) I make on an annual basis. “Calm” and “Headspace” are my favourites.

Before we wrap up, do you have any final words of wisdom or insights on work, life, or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

We have an estimated 80,000 hours in our working careers. Make them count! Do something that means something to you and the world.

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.